World-renowned celebrity and local executive chefs are coming together to celebrate the Festival. Join us on Saturday and Sunday to experience live cooking demos, tastings and book signings with celebrity chefs while OC’s finest chefs will be in the Grand Tasting Pavilions serving up savory bites and mingling with guests.

Fleur & Burger Bar

Hubert Keller, a Frenchman classically trained by France’s top Chefs, is now one of America’s most widely recognized and acclaimed chefs. Chef Keller reside in Las Vegas, where he operates Fleur by Hubert Keller, featuring his contemporary French cooking accented with cuisine around the world. With his palate-attuned to America’s evolving tastes, Chef Keller launchedhis widely popular Burger Bar Restaurants in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Beijing.

He has won numerous awards including the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef: California and has been elected to the Foundation’s prestigious Who’s Who in Food and Beverage. Food and Wine magazine tapped him as one of the Ten Best Chefs in America, and Restaurant & Institutions gave him its Ivy Award.

Chef Keller has cooked for several United States Presidents and was the first guest chef invited to the White House to personally prepare his sophisticated menu to President Clinton and his family. Chef Keller is also know for his performance as a judge on Top Chef as well as for his grace-under-pressure performance as a contestant in the first season of Top Chef Masters on Bravo. Chef Keller was as well a resident judge on Top Chef Just Desserts on Bravo.

Keller appears frequently in the media including appearances on “The Chew” on ABC, “Regis & Kelly” on ABC, “Rachel Ray”, “The Travel Channel“, “ The Food Channel Network”, “The Real House Wife’s from Orange County”, “Good Morning America”, and “Bizarre Foods” with Andrew Zimmern. Chef Keller’s own cooking show, Secrets of a Chef, airs on PBS and is currently in Season 4.

Dubbed a “Rebel with a Cuisinart” in the New York Times for his early championing of original, multi-course vegetarian menu in a 4-start setting. Chef Keller consistently cooks with a light hand and an eye on health. This led to his developing recipes for inclusion in Dr. Dean Ornish’s best selling cookbook, Eat More, Weigh Less.

Chef Keller’s own cookbooks include The Cuisine of Hubert Keller (Ten Speed Press) and Burger Bar, Build your Own Burgers (Willey0. And his latest cookbook “Souvenirs” Memoires, Stories and Recipes from My Life, written with Penelope Wisner, (Andrews McMeel) released October 2012.

Richard Blais is a successful chef, restaurateur, James Beard nominated cookbook author and television personality. Perhaps most recognizable as a recurring judge on Bravo’s Top Chef and the winner of Top Chef All-Stars, Blais grew up on Long Island working as a “poissonier” at McDonald’s. It was here where he first dabbled in deconstruction in cuisine, serving filet-o-fish sandwiches sans top bun. Blais went on to graduate from the Culinary Institute of America and train at The French Laundry, Daniel, Chez Panisse, and el Bulli.

Blais currently owns and operates Trail Blais, a forward-thinking culinary company that has consulted on, designed, and operated popular eateries including multiple outposts of Flip Burger Boutique. In San Diego, where he currently resides, Blais is a partner at the popular Juniper & Ivy and Crack Shack restaurants, which will be expanding to 4 locations in the coming months.
Early 2017 will bring Blais’ second cookbook, So Good (May 16, 2017), and the introduction of Man vs Master on the FYI Network.
In addition to Top Chef, Blais regularly appears on Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen, Guy’s Grocery Games, Cooks vs. Cons, and Celebrity Food Fight. He will also be appearing this fall on FOX’s MasterChef and MasterChef Junior.

He resides with his wife Jazmin and their two daughters Riley and Embry. When not behind the stove, Blais may be found training for his next marathon, working on his next cookbook or cheering on his favorite English Premiere League soccer team.


Nobu Matsuhisa is the creative force behind Nobu Restaurants, coupling time-honored classic Japanese dishes with inventive new flavors and cooking techniques. Chef Nobu’s cuisine pays homage to his formative years as a Tokyo sushi restaurant apprentice while celebrating his later travels in South America, where experimentation in local spices and cooking techniques created the foundation for his contemporary Japanese culinary style. Chef Nobu assesses both the quality and availability of fish and sushi chefs at each potential new restaurant location. His ability to source promising sushi chef candidates ensures a rich talent pool for the Nobu Restaurants network. As Nobu Restaurants has expanded around the globe, Chef Nobu has increased his focus on quality control, undertaking among the sushi chefs. Chef Nobu is also responsible for teaching his new fishes to head chefs across the Nobu network, passing along his cutting edge culinary innovations without sacrificing consistency.

Da Kikokiko

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Brooke Williamson has carved out an impressive résumé full of leading roles and professional achievement, such as being the youngest female chef to ever cook at the James Beard House. Although officially beginning her career at the young age of 17, Williamson always wanted to be a chef for as long as she can remember. “I love creating things that make people happy, and I’ve found that food genuinely does that,” she explains.

Williamson began her culinary career as a teacher’s assistant at the Epicurean Institute of Los Angeles, followed by securing her first kitchen position as a pastry assistant at Fenix at the Argyle Hotel, under the tutelage of Michelin-starred Chef Ken Frank. Her undeniable star quality and concentrated creative energy brought her to Chef Michael McCarty’s nationally acclaimed restaurant Michael’s of Santa Monica, where she worked her way up from line cook to being their youngest sous chef. Desiring to travel and experience other restaurants, Williamson later staged at the renowned Daniel restaurant by Chef and Owner Daniel Boulud in New York City. Two years later, Williamson was appointed her first executive chef position at the notable Los Angeles restaurant Boxer. Following that, she opened the Brentwood eatery Zax as Executive Chef, where she began to develop her signature California-inspired cuisine—infused with local ingredients, global flavors, and centered around the idea that simplicity goes a long way. While at Zax, she also met her husband and business partner Nick Roberts.

The two opened their first independent venture together a couple years later, Amuse Café in Venice, followed by Beechwood restaurant soon after, earning them the title of “Rising Star Chefs” from StarChefs in 2004. Although both are now closed, in 2009, the wife and husband team opened Hudson House, an elevated gastropub in Redondo Beach, followed by The Tripel in 2011, a modern American and craft beer dining destination in the neighboring beachfront community of Playa del Rey. During that time, Williamson became certified by The Court of Master Sommeliers, given her strong interest in wine that first sparked in the early 2000s after traveling extensively through France and Spain. In 2014, the culinary couple debuted a unique four-in-one-concept, Playa Provisions, featuring a grab-and-go marketplace, King Beach; an artisanal ice cream shop, Small Batch; a seafood dining spot, Dockside; and an intimate whiskey bar, Grain. Williamson was a runner-up on Bravo’s “Top Chef” Season 10 in Seattle, which catapulted her career and led to her participating in other national shows like Bravo’s “Top Chef Duels,” Esquire network’s “Knife Fight” (where she took home the win), and starring as the host and mentor on MTV’s “House of Food.” In June 2015, Williamson and Roberts opened Tripli-Kit, a culinary-focused retail store, selling unique kitchen gadgets, cookbooks, and other cooking essentials. In October 2016, the duo debuted their fifth venture in Playa Vista, a fast casual, Hawaiian concept called Da Kikokiko, celebrating Hawaii’s popular street foods, including: poké, shave ice, and musubi. During her day-to-day operations, she works alongside Roberts creating new menus, running the front and back of the house, and managing their multiple concepts.

When she finds time outside of her many ventures, Williamson stays active by running, bike riding, and playing chase with her 8-year-old son, Hudson.

Chef Fabio Viviani has possessed a passion for food since his childhood growing up in Florence, Italy. Between his training in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine at IPSSAR Saffi and working with culinary luminaries such as Alessandro Panzani and Saverio Carmagini, Viviani owned and operated five restaurants in Florence, a farm house, and two nightclubs by the time he was 27. Although a well-respected businessman in Italy, he was ready for a change and in 2005, Viviani moved to Ventura County, CA, where he opened Café Firenze in Moorpark, CA.

Teaming up with one of Chicago’s most innovative restaurant consulting groups, Dine|Amic, Viviani went on to open Siena Tavern in Chicago in 2013, receiving accolades from Michigan Avenue and Chicago Tribune, to name a few. The year 2014 saw the debut of both Mercato by Fabio Viviani, a quick-service Italian concept with branches in Chicago and San Diego, and Fabio Viviani Wine Collection featuring wines from his two wineries in California. In 2015, Viviani continued to make a name for himself in Chicago by opening Bar Siena and Prime & Provisions. The following year, Viviani expanded beyond Chicago to open Osteria by Fabio Viviani at the LAX Delta Terminal and several other Mercato by Fabio locations in Tempe, Phoenix, Cleveland, and Benton Harbor. He plans to open a Detroit branch in March 2017, hot on the heels of his February 2017 opening of Portico by Fabio Viviani in the del Lago Resort & Casino in Tyre, NY. Moreover, in late 2016, he purchased a lobster fishing company in Maine to launch a home seafood delivery service called Lobster by Fabio.

Perhaps best known for his television debut on Bravo’s hit reality series Top Chef—earning the “Fan Favorite” title—his on-screen appearances have propelled him to become one of the fastest growing household names in the country. He is a recurring guest on national television shows such as Good Morning America, The Rachael Ray Show, The Chew, and countless Food Network Shows such as Cutthroat Kitchen: All-Star Tournament, which he won. In February 2017, he also released his own online cooking show, “Fabio’s Kitchen,” a 52-episode series hosted on YouTube.

Off-screen, Viviani is a regular headliner at global food events and festivals. He also has his own lines of cookware and culinary gadgets, and has been a proud spokesman for international brands such as Arnold Premium Breads, Bialetti Cookware, Bertolli, Johnsonville Sausage, and Legends of Europe. He has authored three successful cookbooks: Café Firenze Cookbook, New York Times Best- Seller Fabio’s Italian Kitchen and Fabio’s American Home Kitchen and is planning to release his fourth cookbook, Fabio’s 30-Minute Italian, in May 2017.

Among Viviani’s other passions, he has a knack for business and entrepreneurship. A prolific tech investor and business speaker, not only has he delivered over 300 keynotes in the past 7 years, but he has also featured at several Fortune 500 companies’ corporate functions to share expertise in branding, social media, and marketing. In 2016, Viviani launched his Know-How Leadership Academy, an online educational platform with guides and courses for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Most recently, he merged his mind for innovation with his passion for food when he collaborated with Chicago-based Sapphire Apps to release Food Porn Emoji by Chef Fabio Viviani, the first HD food emoji keyboard on the app market.

His varied accomplishments have impressed many, resulting in his induction into the Chicago Culinary Museum and Chefs Hall of Fame as 2017 Chef of the Year on March 8, 2017. Following Viviani’s initiation, the mayor of Chicago also declared March 8, 2017 to be Chef Fabio Viviani Day in Chicago, encouraging Chicagoans to recognize his achievements and contributions not only to his home city of Chicago, but also to the nation’s culinary scene.

Chef Casey Thompson, a native Texan, spearheads a number of culinary endeavors: three-time Bravo “Top Chef” competitor, culinary consultant for California wineries, international wine ambassador, food-centric world traveler, and, of course, chef, for upcoming concepts in the Southwest and on the West Coast. Her culinary personality fosters the union of Southern cuisine and hospitality with market-fresh ingredients sourced humanely from local farmers. In support of ethical animal treatment, Thompson places priority on sourcing sustainably raised and butchered meat and seafood. “I believe in big, bold, adventurous flavors rather than subtle or nuanced tones,” she says. “I want people to have fun while they’re eating,” says Thompson.

Born and raised in Texas, Thompson’s lifelong affinity for food sparked at a young age in her family’s kitchen, where she experimented with different recipes alongside her grandmothers, learning and creating within their distinct Southern and French culinary perspectives. Mansion on Turtle Creek, a Dallas mainstay then led by renowned chef Dean Fearing, provided Thompson’s foray into the industry as a prep cook, and saw her excel through the ranks for four years to earn the sous chef position. She then signed on as executive chef for Shinsei, a Pan-Asian restaurant in Dallas from Dean Fearing’s wife, Lynae, and veteran restaurateur Tracy Rathbun.

In 2007, Bravo network approached Thompson to appear on “Top Chef” season three, which she finished as runner-up and fan favorite. She came back to the hit show for its eighth season, “Top Chef: All-Stars,” and graces the show again for season 14, filmed in Charleston, SC. “Before Top Chef, I never thought of myself as competitive,” she explains. “It revealed my capabilities, taught me how to handle pressure and work with others, and introduced a flood of new inspirations.”

With her first experience on “Top Chef” complete, Thompson moved to Northern California in 2008, consulting with numerous wineries to pair their varietals with locally sourced dishes, and jetting off to places like Australia and Thailand to garner insight and inspiration from disparate cultures and cuisines.

She went on to launch Brownstone restaurant in Ft. Worth, TX in 2010, become the U.S. Ambassador for Moët-Hennessy’s Terrazas de los Andes Argentinian wine, and partner in San Francisco’s Aveline restaurant in 2014, while consulting for other culinary concepts in the Bay Area and beyond. The chef now joins San Diego’s The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe as executive chef, presenting a contemporary locavore menu with Texan influences, and extends her culinary expertise to Santa Fe, NM at the upcoming boutique El Rey Inn.

With culinary projects sprinkled across the country, Thompson roots herself in California’s Napa Valley, where her husband, Michael DeSantis, operates Harumph Wines. The couple resides with their 90-pound Labradoodle, Sam, and enjoys the outdoors and traveling abroad.


Born and raised in Beijing China, Chef Shirley Chung was exposed to international cuisine at an early age by her grandmother, Liang Si Yi, former Director of The Red Cross in China. Shirley immigrated to America at age 17 for college and worked in Silicon Valley for a few years after graduating. Shirley decided to follow her passion for food so she left her career in high tech behind and enrolled in California Culinary Academy San Francisco. She is trained in classic French and Italian cuisine, worked and opened restaurants for Thomas Keller, Guy Savoy and Mario Batali. After she opened CarneVino as Chef de Cuisine for the Batali group, CarneVino earned multiple awards for Best Steak House internationally. Prior to being a finalist on season 11 of “Top Chef” in New Orleans, she held the Executive Chef Position at China Poblano, by Jose Andres, which was nominated for the Best New Restaurant Award by the James Beard Foundation in 2011. While working at China Poblano, she fell in love with Mexican cuisine and learned more about her own heritage. In 2014, Shirley opened a restaurant in Orange County, Twenty Eight, featuring modern Chinese cuisine.  Recently, Shirley has been competing on season 14 of BravoTV’s Top Chef. She used this opportunity to showcase her Chinese American Cuisine during the competition and she was rewarded by being named the runner up of Top Chef. Shirley is currently working on opening her next concept in Los Angeles. Steamers Co. is a fast-casual counter service seafood driven restaurant with an oyster bar.


Venezuelan-born restaurateur, TV personality, TV producer, philanthropist and published author Lorena Garcia is currently one of the country’s leading chefs, well known for numerous TV series, a successful chain of restaurants, and cookbooks. On the heels of the success of her first cookbook, Lorena Garcia’s New Latin Classics, Garcia has taken her love of cooking to the next level by creating the Lorena Bella Kitchen Collection for HSN.

Garcia first embraced a love of food as a child, at family gatherings while growing up in Caracas, Venezuela. Garcia originally planned to be a lawyer, finishing her associate degree and paralegal studies while learning English, but she soon realized her heart was not in it. Garcia left the legal world behind her and enrolled at Johnson & Wales University, graduating with a
Bachelors degree in culinary arts and more recently received an honorary doctorate degree in culinary arts. With a world of choices ahead, she set out on a tour of countries known for great cuisine. In Paris she took her first job as an apprentice at the Ritz-Carlton, subsequently working her way through Italy, Japan, Korea, Thailand and China. Returning to the U.S., she spent three years under acclaimed chef Pascal Oudin at the Grand Bay Hotel. She continued to hone her chops, and helped prepare a few, doing time at Jeffery Chodorow’s China Grill and Red Square.

In July 2002 Garcia took the leap and opened her own restaurant, Food Café, and then Elements Tierra, two successful restaurants in Miami’s Design District that featured an eclectic mix of Latin and Asian-inspired dishes (both sold in 2008). Recognizing a need for great comfort food for stressed-out travelers, in February 2011 she brought her talents as an executive chef to
Miami International Airport (in American Airlines terminal) with the opening of Lorena Garcia Cocina, a healthier take on traditional Latin cuisine. She opened her second traveler’s restaurant in August 2012 at the Atlanta International Airport (Delta International). Garcia’s third restaurant TAPAS Y COCINA by Lorena Garcia opened September 2016 in Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport. In addition to Garcia’s restaurants, the Lorena Garcia Culinary Loft located in Miami, FL is available for private events and television productions.

Garcia’s latest restaurant project together with 50 eggs is CHICA Las Vegas at the Venetian Hotel slated to open Spring 2017. Expect an exciting diverse menu that draws inspiration from classic renditions and give guests the opportunity to explore the flavors of Latin American cuisine as one culture, with influences from Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, among many more.

HMS Host, a global leader in creating dining experiences for travel venues, such as train stations and airports. The company operates in 112 airports around the globe, including the 20 busiest in North America, 99 travel plazas on motorways throughout the U.S. and Canada, and operates the destination retail stores at the Empire State Building and Space Center Houston. Garcia is
now the consultant for HSM Host’s proprietary brands, working in menu consulting and recipe development along with other top celebrity chefs including, Rick Bayless, Todd English, Wolfgang Puck, Kathy Casey and David Burke. Garcia will now bring her delicious Latin flavor to travelers with Lorena Garcia Tapas, an eatery available at several international airports.

Given her Latin upbringing and charismatic personality, Garcia was first offered the chance to showcase her skills on Telemundo, Gems and Mundo TV, hosting the shows “Vida Gourmet,” “Cocine Mundos,” “De Mañanita” and “El Arte del Buen Gusto,” as well as the Utilisima/FoxLife series “Sazón con Lorena Garcia”, “Lorena en su Salsa” and Emmy-nominated “El mejor de los peores.” Garcia competed on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters,” season four among a dozen award-winning chefs for the title and $100,000 for their charity of choice. Garcia has also served as a judge on “Cocineros
al limite,” and Telemundo’s “Top Chef: Estrellas”. More recently Garcia has appeared on NBC’s “Food Fighters” season one and on Food Network’s “Guys Grocery Games.” Garcia also appeared on Bravo’s “Recipe for deception” and the 2nd season of NBC’s Food Fighters.

Food Hunters, produced in collaboration with Viacom, Garcia and Cinemat is a new and innovative format for kids. The show is currently in its first season and premiered on Nickelodeon Latin America, October 16, 2016. Garcia also worked as consulting producer and had acting appearances for Nickelodeon Latin America’s new scripted series “Toni la chef” and the English language series titled “Talia in the kitchen.”

Garcia would go on to become one of the best-known Latin chefs in America as well, with appearances on Bravo as a guest chef on its “Top Chef All-Stars,” on NBC as a chef on “The Biggest Loser” and a judge and investor on “America’s Next Great Restaurant.” Garcia has also been featured on the CNN special documentary “Latinos in America” and as a guest on such talk
programs as “Queen Latifah,” “The Talk,” “The Chew” and “The Today Show.”

Garcia created “Big Chef, Little Chef” as a comprehensive non-profit program to help children and their families take control of their eating habits and, ultimately, their lives. At the Clinton Foundation’s Health Matters: Activating Health in Every Generation conference, Garcia pledged to lend her expertise to create healthier recipes available free to any school in the country, partnering with The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation was also her charity of choice for “Top Chef Masters.”

Her recipes are featured in periodicals such as People Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Saveur, and even business magazines such as Kiplinger’s and Entrepreneur. Garcia’s first cookbook, Lorena Garcia’s New Latin Classics: Fresh Ideas for Favorite Dishes (Ballantine Books) gives traditional and often complex Latin dishes a healthier, simpler makeover. Garcia teaches home cooks everywhere how to wow family and friends with delicious New Latin dishes and how to add a Latin accent to many others. Spanish language edition Lorena Garcia’s Nuevos Clasicos Latinos was released on April 7, 2015. Her second cookbook Lorena Garcia’s New Taco Classics, released on September 29th, 2015 in both English and Spanish language editions.

In addition to her cookbooks, Garcia decided to take her love of helping others to cook at home a step further, with her new cookware line, the Lorena Bella Kitchen Collection available for purchase on HSN, and HSN mobile. Her line features Oven to Table Serve ware By Corningware®, inter-twining tradition and function in chic colors and multi-function products designed to save time and energy in the kitchen while making cooking approachable and more fun.

The Lorena Bella Collection also includes Ceramic Cookware and Bakeware with HSN Exclusive Innovative Technolon+ Ceramic Non-Stick Technology, a patented ceramic based nano non-stick technology, health conscious cookware that is PTFE and PFOA free, environmentally friendly, using less energy to manufacture, scratch, abrasion and heat resistant, lightweight, dishwasher safe, all available in chic colors making a stylish and modern collection with a splash Latin flair.

The Art Smith Company

Chef Art Smith loves the idea of bringing people together through food. It’s partly what made him the success he is today. He is the executive chef and co-owner of Blue Door Kitchen and Garden, Southern Art and Bourbon Bar, 1500 South at the Naples Bay Resort and his latest restaurant Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.

Art Smith has received the culinary profession’s highest awards and has cooked for some of the world’s most famous celebrities. In 1997, Smith became the personal, day- to-day chef to Oprah Winfrey, a position that lasted ten years. Smith now coordinates and cooks for special events all around the world.

Smith has made several television appearances including ABC’s Lady Gaga Thanksgiving Special, Top Chef, Top Chef Duels, and returned to Top Chef Masters (for the second time), where he quickly became an audience favorite. Smith was also featured in an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition where he lent a hand to a deserving family that has devoted their lives to providing meals for the less fortunate members of their community.

Smith has made regular television appearances on programs such as Iron Chef America, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Nightline, Fox News, Extra, Entertainment Tonight, BBQ Pitmasters, The Talk, The Dr. Oz Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show. He has appeared on the cover of Parade magazine, and has been featured in Cooking Light magazine. He is a regular contributor to Standup magazine, whose proceeds benefit The Ben Cohen Standup Foundation, which raises awareness of the long-term, damaging effects of bullying.

Smith is the author of four award-winning cookbooks: Back to the Table; Kitchen Life: Real Food for Real Families; Back to the Family; and Art Smith’s Healthy Comfort, with a focus on healthy cooking and healthy living, He contributed recipes and cooking advice to The Spectrum, the newest book by ground-breaking cardiologist and New York Times bestselling author Dr. Dean Ornish. In March of 2016 his latest cookbook Smart Cooking was released in conjunction of his line of the Chef Art Smith Smartbowl Cooking System.

Smith is the founder of Common Threads, a non-profit organization teaching low-income children to cook wholesome and affordable meals since 2003. He believes that through hands-on cooking and introducing children to fresh foods we can help prevent childhood obesity, reverse the trend of poor eating habits, and learn about diversity and tolerance through the celebration of our cultural differences and our commonalities.

In 2015 Smith launched a non-profit organization, Reunion, Florida Garden and Kitchen School, in Madison FL at the historic Wardlaw-Smith House near his childhood home in Jasper, FL. At Reunion students of all ages receive free classes on southern cooking traditions, horticulture, and weather forecasting via Weather Stem systems.

Smith was honored by Chicago magazine as a Chicagoan of the Year in 2007. That same year, the prestigious James Beard Foundation named him Humanitarian of the Year. In 2008 Chef Art Smith received an Honorary MBA Degree, awarded by the Dedman School of Hospitality at Florida State University. Smith was inducted into the Chicago Culinary Museums Hall of Fame in 2010. September 30th 2010 was proclaimed by Richard M. Daley, Mayor of The City of Chicago as Chef Art Smith Day in Chicago. May 19, 2012 Chef Art Smith received an Honorary Doctorate of Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University, North Miami Campus.

Smith lives in Chicago and Florida with his husband Jesus Salgueiro, their four children Zumy, Zuky, Brando and Angel, and of course three dogs, seven cats, 15 fish and a couple of turtles.

Vaca + Broadway

Amar is the Executive Chef and Partner at the famed Broadway By Amar Santana in Laguna Beach, Ca and Vaca in Costa Mesa, Ca). Born in the Dominican Republic, Santana immigrated to the US at age 13 and began his culinary career at 16. He was mentored by some of the worlds most renowned chefs helping him develop his skills of expressing his passion through food. He as earned many accolades throughout his career, most recently Bravo’s Top Chef Season 13 runner up. By combining flavors and culinary traditions from all over the world, Chef Amar provides a truly unforgettable gastronomical experience.

Herb & Wood

Chef Brian Malarkey has created more than a dozen wildly successful restaurants across the United States including Herb & Wood, his newest concept in San Diego’s buzzing gastronomic neighborhood of Little Italy, which Zagat named one of 2016’s biggest restaurant openings and the San Diego Union Tribune is calling, “the most thoughtful, exquisitely executed, stylish restaurant of the year.” Malarkey’s other restaurants, under the management of Hakkasan Group – a worldwide entertainment, dining, nightlife, and hospitality company, include Searsucker (San Diego, Del Mar, Austin, Las Vegas) and Herringbone (La Jolla, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Las Vegas). He is also the partner/operator of three healthy, fast-service restaurants in San Diego named Green Acre, and Farmer & The Seahorse and chef/partner of Herb & Eatery, a market and cafe, connected to Herb & Wood. He is a regular judge on Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games, makes regular appearances on the Today Show, and was a Top Chef finalist and a winning mentor on ABC’s The Taste.

RM Seafood

Chef Rick Moonen has been featured in Food & Wine, SAVEUR, Bon Appetit, Food Arts, USA Today, Travel + Leisure, and seen on Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate, Top Chef, Top Chef Masters, TODAY, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Dan Rather Reports, and CNN. In addition, he has received numerous awards for his tireless efforts towards sustainability including Chef of the Year by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 2011; and Humanitarian of the Year by the American Culinary Federation in 2013. In 2014, he was appointed to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Blue Ribbon Task Force as one of the top twenty leading culinarians; and honored with the prestigious Vegas Dozen award by Saks Fifth Avenue, Green spun Media Group, and Keep Memory Alive. Using the finest treasures from the sea, Rick Moonen’s rm seafood features an all-American menu in a casual atmosphere, located in fabulous Las Vegas. Rick is a celebrated seafood chef and an early champion of sustainable fishing practices. In 2010, Rick was a finalist in the second season of Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters.”

Chef Melissa King is one of the most exciting young talents in America’s culinary scene. After graduating from
The Culinary Institute of America, King trained under several Michelin-star and James Beard-recognized chefs
including Dominique Crenn, Craig Stoll (Delfina), and Ron Siegel (The Ritz Carlton Dining Room). She earned
national recognition placing as a finalist on Bravo’s television series TOP CHEF.
King’s hyper-local cooking style combines the Bay Area’s best ingredients with modern techniques and
delicate Asian flavors. In 2015, King founded Co+Lab, an experimental pop-up dinner series in which she
collaborates with local chefs and food artisans. She is the first chef ambassador for Whole Foods Market, a
global organic foods supermarket. She was selected as Celebrity Grand Marshal for San Francisco Pride 2016
advocating for the LGBTQ community. In Nov 2016, she was the opening guest chef of Elle Café Aoyama, a
fine dining restaurant in the fashion district of Tokyo, in collaboration with Elle Magazine.
King actively participates in speaking panels supporting women’s empowerment, environmental
sustainability, food education for youths, and entrepreneurship. She also appears at food & music festivals
such as Outsidelands, Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival, & Napa Valley Film Festival. Thrillist recognized
Chef King as one of the best female chefs in San Francisco.
“When I’m not in the kitchen, you’ll find me at a concert, exploring the outdoors, or in the yoga studio. Life is
an adventure! It’s easy to be extreme, but balance is what I strive for in life and in my cooking.” – Melissa

Marché Moderne

Florent and Amelia Marneau are more than the husband-and-wife chef duo behind Marché Moderne, one of Southern California’s most critically- lauded restaurants: they’re the heart and soul of the award-winning French bistro they’ve created together.

Florent’s vast professional experience includes a prestigious tenure that began in 1990, having worked in Paris for legendary master pastry chef Gaston Lenotre before chancing upon the opportunity to work for Orange County’s then-top French chef Pascal Olhats at Tradition by Pascal. From there, Florent moved on to take the helms at Aubergine, which quickly garnered critical acclaim as O.C.’s best restaurant. It was at Aubergine where he would meet Amelia, the restaurant’s pastry chef at the time.

Amelia’s impressive credentials include working as the pastry chef at the Michelin star restaurant Les Ambassadeurs in Hotel de Crillon Paris. Shortly after Florent and Amelia married, Florent was tapped by master chef Joachim Splichal of Patina Restaurant Group to be the executive chef of Pinot Provence. That too, did not take long to become the crown jewel of French dining in Orange County. After a successful decade, the Marneaus decided to strike out on their very own and opened Marché Moderne at South Coast Plaza, a luxury shopping destination. There, the accolades continued to pour in for another decade. Described as “ … the best bistro in Southern California” by the Los Angeles Times, in addition to nabbing the title of Best Restaurant in Orange County by the Orange County Register’s critic Brad A. Johnson, Marché Moderne has also consistently landed on the annual “101 Best Restaurants” list by Pulitzer- prize winning food critic Jonathan Gold of the Los Angeles Times.

Throughout the years, the Marneaus worked tirelessly side by side, he in the kitchen, creating what would be his hallmark of pristine French cuisine, with Amelia whipping up delicate confections to complement his cooking – or sometimes, the other way around. In addition to her artful pastries and desserts, Marché Moderne’s longtime guests know to also look forward to Amelia’s warm and gracious hospitality.

Now, the Marneaus are set to embark on their next culinary chapter together. They’ve taken their combined love for market-inspired ingredients and classic French cooking techniques with modern touches to a brand new home for Marché Moderne in Newport Coast, with the Pacific Ocean on the horizon.

When the Marneaus are not in the kitchen dreaming up new dishes, they enjoy doting on their two children, Juliette and Mateo.

Executive chef

Chef Katsuji Tanabe is the son of a Japanese father, and Mexican mother. Born and raised in Mexico City, Katsuji spent his formative years watching and learning from chefs in the homes of the city’s elite, picking up recipes, techniques and sparking a lifelong passion for Mexican cooking along the way.

After his parents separation, a previously privileged Tanabe, found himself living in a oneroom apartment without a refrigerator, with his mother and siblings. Living conditions were poor and Katsuji recalls putting perishable foods by the window in an attempt to keeping it from spoiling. Determined to have a better life, Tanabe left for America in 1999, arriving in the country on a 6-month tourist visa and embarking on his culinary journey.

Jamie Gwen is a Culinary Institute of America Graduate, a Celebrity Chef and Syndicated Radio Host, a Certified Sommelier and a seven-time Cookbook Author. She can be seen on KTLA Channel 5, HSN, on national news shows and in print from coast-to-coast, sharing her seasonal lifestyle approach and her passion for food. She brings the best to radio with her weekly Syndicated Radio Show, heard every Sunday on 100 Radio Stations across the country and in her native Southern California on Talk Radio 790 KABC. Jamie has been seen on The Food Network, Master Chef, The Talk, Martha Stewart and Emeril Live and her 7th cookbook,
co-Authored by Lana Sills and entitled “Entertaining In Style”, just released. Find her daily dish at and on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram @ChefJamieGwen.

Sushi Roku

Daniella Malfitano is a Chef, traveler, and lover of all things food. Her love and passion for food came about at a very early age as a result of her Sicilian and Hispanic family heritage and the fact that she was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Daniella studied at DePaul University where she earned a degree in International Studies with a self-designed concentration in Food and Culture. Daniella worked with the University to develop and certify her self designed degree focused around food. For two years she worked alongside a group of Professors, Chefs, and the City of Chicago through the Department of Cultural Affairs in order to better understand the world of food through cooking, culture, nutrition, politics, and education. She conducted a community assessment regarding the availability of healthy food resources throughout Chicago. Her fieldwork research illustrated the availability of organic food resources and provided community health statistics of the different marginalized urban districts of Chicago explaining the results through sociological trends and evidence.

During this time Daniella traveled to Argentina to study at the Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires. It was there that she solidified her deep appreciation and love for food and was inspired to pursue a professional career as a Chef. After completing her undergraduate studies at DePaul and getting her feet wet at many restaurants in Chicago, Daniella moved to New York to continue her educational experience at The International Culinary Center (formerly founded as The French Culinary Institute). The intensive culinary study program of this professional school earned her classical training and technique from some of the most distinguished Chefs in the industry including Chef Jacques Pépin and Chef Alain Sailhac. Daniella was asked by her alma mater to write about her experience as a culinary student and answered in part by explaining, “For me, the best part of being a student at the French Culinary Institute was learning from my Chef instructors. It was because of these Chefs, studying from them and their talents, and observing them, that I learned what it means to be passionate about one’s craft and how to be a professional in this demanding industry.” While a student and after graduation Daniella worked at Prune Restaurant and Per Se Restaurant in New York City. Daniella graduated from the French Culinary Institute with a Grand Diploma degree in the Classic Culinary Arts program with highest honors.

Daniella is the host and creator of the television program Delicious Discoveries with Daniella Malfitano on the PBS network KIXE. Tune in each Saturday as she highlights the local farms, ranches, vineyards, orchards, markets and more throughout your hometown. She’ll lead you from the source to the main course and show you all of the local delights of your neighborhood through its food. Join Daniella each week as she uncovers the delicious discoveries of your culinary community!

When Daniella is not on a farm for her television program she can be found in and around her home base in the bay area teaching cooking classes and hosting educational cooking workshops to some big name clients and bay area businesses like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Salesforceand Genentech, just to name a few. Daniella also hosts private cooking classes for smaller scale companies and loves being in the kitchen teaching people the wonders of food. Her passion and enthusiasm for food is contagious. Every student will leave her classes full and fired up!
When asked what Daniella loves most about her industry she answered without hesitation: “Throughout my experiences I have become fully aware of my deep passion and love for food and cooking which has provided for me a deep understanding of genuine human connection. I can’t think of a career that is more linked to all humans and daily life than a profession dealing with food, the essential element of life, which feeds the world with nourishment and pleasure simultaneously, day after day. I am attracted to this industry simply because culinary service is intrinsically linked to several disciplines, that is socially, politically, economically, and anthropologically, just to name a few. The power and necessity of food for humans is endless making this industry vital for the state of the world today and very influential for the direction it will take tomorrow.”

Filomena's Italian Kitchen

Chef Linda Johnsen is the Owner/Executive Chef of Filomena’s Italian Kitchen in Costa Mesa and Filomena’s Italian Market, opening in Fall 2016. Linda grew up in South Philly in a traditional Italian American family where she spent Sunday’s with her Grandmother, Filomena, and Aunt Rosemary making a pot of Sunday Sauce and learning the secrets to making “homemades” or pasta. This is where the tradition and techniques of Italian cooking were passed down to Linda and what she now shares with her guests in both her restaurants.

The Italian Kitchen has been named one of the Orange County Register’s 2015 Best Top 10 Italian Restaurant’s in the OC, and for a second year in a row, one of the 75 Best Places to Eat in the OC.   Her award-winning pizza has been honored in 2016 by ranking #9 in the Register’s Top 20 Best Pizzas in Orange County, and #4 in Orange Coast magazines Best 28 in the OC.  The Italian Kitchen was also ranked the #1 Restaurant in Costa Mesa by Trip Advisor.

Linda spends the majority of her time making sure her guests are being properly fed as a true Italian mother would do. She currently resides in Newport Beach with her family and can be contacted at   Follow Filomena’s on Facebook & Instagram at “filomenascafe” for the latest events and to see what Linda is whipping up for her customers.

Pizzeria Mozza Newport Beach

At a young age, Chef Matthew Mintzias found his passion working alongside his father at his fast-food restaurant. He attended The Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona. After graduating, he went on to work with Nancy Silverton at Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles. He quickly worked his way toward a position as Sous Chef at Pizzeria Mozza in Newport Beach and was recently promoted to Head Chef. Matthew wants to open his own restaurants in the future and hopes to find a way to incorporate his Greek and Korean heritage.

Executive Chef

Executive Chef Frank Gorriceta brings over eighteen years of culinary experience to Nobu Restaurants.
Upon grraduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Gorriceta began work as a cook, and in a few
years, he took a job at Nobu New york, Nobu Las Vegas, and finally to Nobu Newport Beach.

Aside from his immense passion for food, the connoisseur is highly dedicated to travel, art and adventure
as well as charity work. His personal philosophy – When you think it’s enough, it’s time to say
goodbye – keeps him motivated to reach his full potential.

The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar

After spending the majority of his career leading other restaurateurs and culinary groups to success, internationally renowned ChefYvonGoetz has become a culinary force as Executive Chef and Partner at The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar, which has locations in Tustin and Newport Beach, California.

The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar opened its doors in August 2007 at The District in Tustin, and immediately went on to receive the distinction of “Restaurant of the Year” in 2008, 2009 and 2013 by the well-respected and highly influential OC Concierge Association. In 2012, luxury publication RIVIERA Magazine and noted Orange County Business Journal both bestowed the title of “Restaurant of the Year,” and the prestigious Southern California Restaurant Writers Association awarded the group “Restaurateurs of the Year” for their achievements. Most recently, he was presented with the honor of “Chef of the Year” by the Golden Foodie Awards at a grand ceremony that celebrated the best chefs in the region, leading the way to the 2014 opening of The Winery’s second location in Newport Beach.

Goetz, considered one of the most highly decorated chefs in Southern California, has received such accolades and awards as “Alsace’s gift to Southern California” by the Los Angeles Times, “The Best of the Best” by the Travel Guide, one of three recipients in California of the AAA Five-Diamond Award, and “Chef of the Year” by the Orange County Business Journal, the Southern California Restaurant Writer’s Association, and Golden Foodie Awards. In addition, he was selected by Condé Nast to participate as one of only 14 chefs nationwide for the Bon Appétit-hosted Cadillac Culinary Challenge.

As Executive Chef and Partner in The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar, Goetz develops and oversees a cutting-edge menu featuring contemporary California regional cuisine with a focus on specialties and ingredients found in California’s vast Wine Country. He is responsible for hiring, training and directing a culinary team that delivers consistent, quality fare that has set new standards for restaurants in Orange County and beyond.

Driftwood Kitchen

Executive Chef Rainer Schwarz combines a rich cultural past with the finest culinary training to present menus unlike any other found in the region. His style of cooking focuses on simplicity by using only the best possible high quality, seasonal ingredients.One of his passions is to pair each dish on his menu with the best possible wine selection. The exquisite flavor and unsurpassed quality of each dish prepared by Chef Rainer demonstrates his extensive training and expertise in fine dining.

Selanne Steak Tavern

Joshua Severson has served as the executive chef for Teemu Selanne’s eponymous steak tavern, since it opened in 2013. As a steakhouse pro and devotee, he offers guests traditional cuts of steaks and chops, perfectly prepared and served with his version of classic sauces and seasonal sides. Severson’s American contemporary cuisine won Selanne Steak Tavern recognition as Best New Restaurant and Best Steak venue at the 2014 Golden Foodies Awards, which honors top culinary talent in Orange County, Calif. Adjacent to the steakhouse, Chef Severson also helms the butchering team that hand cuts aged prime meats for TS Gourmet Shoppe, which was launched in December 2015. In addition, his kitchen team prepares the food wares for the Shoppe including Farmers Market Soups, Chef’s Secret Sauces, Truffle Popcorn, Foie Gras Pâté  and other savory selections. Severson’s love for food and simple preparation of fine local ingredients stems from his Pacific Northwest upbringing where he gained an appreciation for the region’s produce and seafood straight from Puget Sound. Before his present position, he was the chef de cuisine for Executive Chef Frédéric Castan at St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa in Dana Point, Calif. Prior to that, he worked with celebrity chef Tom Colicchio at award-winning Craft Steak in Las Vegas. His first experiences in professional kitchens were at some of Seattle’s landmark restaurants including Sky City at the Space Needle and the legendary El Gaucho Steak.

Balboa Bay Resort

NEWPORT BEACH, CALIF. (June 24, 2015) – Balboa Bay Resort is pleased to announce the appointment of Rachel Haggstrom to executive chef of the luxurious Newport Beach resort. Haggstrom has been serving as the property’s chef de cuisine since October 2013.

In her new role, Haggstrom will oversee the resort’s dining restaurants, including Waterline Newport Beach, the resort’s signature bay front seafood restaurant and A&O Kitchen+Bar, the resort’s waterfront gastropub. Haggstrom will also manage the resort’s day-to-day culinary operations, including special events, galas and weddings.

“Rachel has been instrumental in spearheading the development and implementation of the resort’s culinary programs,” said Sam El-Rabaa, general manager of Balboa Bay Resort. “Her depth of knowledge and extraordinary experience, both at five star resorts and elite culinary destinations, make her the ideal candidate to lead us to new culinary heights.”

Balboa Bay Resort was previously under the culinary direction of executive chef Vincent Lesage, who is now the executive chef at the resort’s sister Meritage Collection property, Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara, CA.

“I look forward to this next chapter and leading the culinary team to greater heights, Haggstrom said. “I am excited to use my training and expertise to create memorable dining experiences for resort guests and the local community.”

Growing up on her family’s citrus grove in Temecula, CA, Haggstrom became fascinated by the farming process, from planting seeds to harvesting and she naturally developed a passion for food and cooking with fresh produce. Haggstrom graduated from the California Culinary Academy – Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco, CA, and went on to work at various elite culinary destinations, including The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco, Wolfgang Puck ‘s Postrio at the Kimpton Hotel San Francisco, and Thomas Keller’s Michelin three-star restaurant, The French Laundry. It was during her tenure at The French Laundry that she developed her signature “farm-to-table” cooking style. Prior to joining Balboa Bay Resort as chef de cuisine in October 2013, Haggstrom served as sous chef at St. Regis Monarch Beach.

When Haggstrom is not in the kitchen, she enjoys relaxing and spending time with her husband and daughter.

About Balboa Bay Resort
Balboa Bay Resort, the only waterfront resort in Newport Beach, offers stunning bay views and sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. The resort features 159 guestrooms and suites, each with a private balcony. Additional features include destination dining at Waterline, the resort’s signature waterfront restaurant; A&O Kitchen+Bar, a waterfront gastropub and bar; BlendTM, an Italian inspired coffee shop, as well as a full-service 10,000-square-foot spa; more than 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space; a wealth of outdoor recreation, including a year-round heated swimming pool and whirlpool, water activities, and for guests to rent from the private dock: electric boats, stand-up paddleboards, and kayaks. For information and reservations, please contact Balboa Bay Resort at 949.645.5000; or visit the website at

About Meritage Collection
Meritage Collection is a life and style collection from Pacific Hospitality Group, which includes independent hotels, resorts, wineries, and golf courses. Meritage Collection offers exceptional travel and one-of-a-kind experiences in four of California’s most spectacular locations—La Jolla, Napa Valley, Newport Beach, and Santa Barbara.
Blending the best in leisure and group travel, Meritage Collection débuted in 2013 and includes The Meritage Resort and Spa, Bacara Resort & Spa, Balboa Bay Resort, and Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa. For more information about Meritage Collection, please visit

Media Contact:
Lauren Crowley

Bluegold & LSXO

Growing up in the San Gabriel Valley, Chef Tin developed an affinity for worldwide flavors at an early age. Tin graduated from UCLA with a degree in Economics, and after dabbling in finance and an array of other industries, he traded excel sheets for baking sheets and enrolled in the California Academy of Culinary Arts. His culinary career has taken him around the world, which has allowed him to curate truly unique and globally inspired menus at each of the Blackhouse concepts.

Bluegold celebrates Southern California’s land, from citrus groves to the rocky coast, with a renewal of the coastal California eatery (Bluegold’s name was inspired by the point where the sunset hits the ocean on the horizon). With Bluegold, the Blackhouse team seeks to take farm-to-table back to its roots; to a time where leisure met cuisine and culture was drawn from the earth and sea. From fresh oysters in the steam kettle to a savory steak grilled over charcoal, Bluegold reimagines the seaside dining experience.

21016 Pacific Coast Highway Ste D200
Huntington Beach, CA 92648 | 424.398.0237
Hours: Monday-Sunday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Behind an unmarked door adjacent to the wine room, guests are transported to District 1 (China Town) in Saigon via Blackhouse’s 28-seat restaurant-within-a-restaurant, LSXO. A spinoff of the Little Sister brand (Manhattan Beach and Downtown Angeles), LSXO is a love letter to the culture, heritage, and lineage of Vietnam (Vuong’s relatives hail from the region). While Little Sister is known for its French Vietnamese menu, LSXO follows the same Southeast Asian inspiration with a more refined, expat feel.



Hospitality industry standout, Manfred Lassahn is the executive chef of the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa and the mastermind behind Watertable, recently named to Open Table’s Diner’s Choice Top 100 Restaurants in North America. Watertable, the resort’s wildly popular, signature restaurant that newly opened in Spring 2014 has been featured in Coast, LA Times, Orange County Register Magazine and Rivera OC as a visionary putting a new, creative spin on American-style cuisine, Chef Lassahn continues to evolve the dining concepts throughout the resort with his innovation and passion.

With a history that spans nearly three decades in executive-level culinary roles within the Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Chef Lassahn is uniquely equipped to lead the resorts’ award-winning restaurants into ever-new phases of culinary excellence with seasonally dictated, naturally raised and sustainably sourced offerings. Chef Lassahn oversees all aspects of the resorts cuisine, including Watertable, the stately and sophisticated Red Chair Lounge, Pete’s Sunset Grille and all special events and banquet functions.

Throughout his career, Chef Lassahn has served as executive chef at various high profile Hyatt properties including the Hyatt Regency Long Beach, Hyatt Valencia and most recently at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza. A polished industry expert, Chef Lassahn was recognized in 2011 as Hyatt Hotels’ Chef of the Year. He has played an active role in introducing leading food and beverage trends into the resort dining experience by heading the development of Vines restaurant at the Hyatt Valencia, renowned for its seasonal menu changes and quarterly wine-pairing dinners, consulting on the Hyatt Hotels “For Kids by Kids” innovative menu concept and the brand’s “Culinary Diversity Taskforce Boot Camp.” Due to his stellar track record, Chef Lassahn was among those chosen to develop and manage Hyatt hotel’s fine dining standards and banquet servicing.

True Food Kitchen
Five Crowns & SideDoor

Chef de Cuisine David Moldovan takes great pride in creating delicious, carefully crafted dishes. In the Lawry’s tradition, he strives for excellence through meticulous attention to detail.

Born in Connecticut and raised in Texas, Chef Moldovan discovered a passion for cooking as a child when he found it to be a natural outlet for his creativity.
Although he set aside his culinary interests to pursue his formal education, his love of food was reignited when he moved from Texas to Orange County in 2007.
There, he attended the Art Institute of Orange County and received a Bachelor of Science degree in culinary management. The following year he joined Lawry’s Carvery, South Coast Plaza and then went on to work in some of Southern California’s finest kitchens including K’ya in Laguna Beach, Anaheim’s Hotel Ménage and The Sun Dried Tomato in San Clemente.

In 2011, he returned to the Lawry’s family when he was hired as a cook at Five Crowns. Subsequently, Dave rose to the position of Chef de Cuisine of both the restaurant and gastropub by thoroughly mastering every station in the Five Crown’s kitchen.

Chef Moldovan considers his own family dinners one of his greatest culinary inspirations and delights in bringing his childhood love of dinnertime to Five Crowns and SideDoor.

The Ranch

Michael Rossi is the award-winning Executive Chef of THE RANCH Restaurant, Saloon & Private Dining & Events Center in Anaheim, CA. Under his direction, THE RANCH Restaurant has received critical acclaim and numerous accolades by Orange County Register’s venerated food critic and writer, Brad A. Johnson. In addition, he was named “Chef of the Year 2016” by the Orange County Business Journal as well as receiving “Chef of the Year” by Orange County Restaurant Association’s annual Golden Foodie Awards guild.
An Orange County, California native, Rossi grew up going to weekly Sunday dinners at Grandma Rossi’s house with the responsibility of helping his mother and grandmother prepare dinner for the entire family. These times in the kitchen proved to be instrumental in shaping his life and created a passion for a career that would eventually take him across the globe and right back where it all started-at home in Orange County.
Rossi attended the prestigious California Culinary Academy in San Francisco where he graduated at the top of his class and received the highly coveted “Most Likely to Succeed” Danielle Carlisle Walker Award. The award is granted by the chefs of the academy to the one student of each graduating class, “most likely to make in impact” on the culinary world. Upon receiving this award, Rossi set forth on an international culinary adventure to broaden his skills and follow his passion of cooking.
He embarked on a journey to the world famous Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners in Costigliole d’Asti and interned in one of southern Italy’s finest restaurants at Michelin starred, Il Principe in Pompeii. Rossi then went to work alongside one of Italy’s greatest chef’s, Bruno Barbieri at the Michelin 2-star restaurant, Locanda Solarola in Bologna.
Rossi has worked with some of the best in the industry, including Hawaiian fusion cuisine pioneers Chef’s Roy Yamaguchi & David Abella of the highly successful Roy’s Restaurant’s and with the Food Network’s “Two Hot Tamales,” Susan Fenniger and Mary Sue Milliken at Santa Monica’s Border Grill before working with Andrew “Andy” Sutton of the award-winning Napa Rose restaurant within the Disneyland Resort. ®
When Rossi is not working he is spending time with his wife Dolly and their two Anaheim Ducks fanatic sons, Maddox and Luca.

  • *Chef of the Year, Orange County Business Journal, June 2016
  • The Fab Five: “Are these the best ‘Iron Chefs’ in Orange County?” by Orange County Register, July 2015
  • “Who are Orange County’s Super Chefs?” Coast Magazine, June 2015
  • Southern California Restaurant Writer’s Chef of the Year 2015
  • Chef of the Year, Golden Foodie Awards 2014
  • Part of a Collaborative Chef Dinner, prepared a dinner course for 80 guests at
  • The Historic James Beard House in New York City, 2013
  • Court of Master Sommeliers, London, England – Certified Sommelier 2010
  • One of Five Chef’s in America to be inducted into the Fraternity of the Côtes of Bordeaux
  • Wine Council, Bordeaux, France in collaboration with the Jean-Louis Palladin Foundation
    in Washington D.C. 2007
  • Recognized as one of Orange County’s ‘Young Guns’, a magazine cover feature Orange
  • County’s ‘Top Ten Chef’s Under 40’, by OC Metro Magazine 2006
  • Jean Louis Palladin Foundation – Wine Internship in Bordeaux, France 2005
  • Graduate of Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners, Costigliole d’Asti, Italy 1998
  • California Culinary Academy, San Francisco, CA – Awarded Top Student in Class 1997

Born and raised in the sunny, coastal city of Santa Monica, Robert was inspired by the diversity of cuisines rooted in his hometown. His loving parents, both from Ecuador, influenced his passion for food and cooking. Growing up he spent most of his time in the kitchen alongside his mother, learning about traditional Ecuadorian cuisine and assisting her with her in-home cake business. He began to turn his passion into a career by attending the Art Institute of Santa Monica. After years of mentorship and hard work, Robert’s talent has been recognized in numerous restaurant concepts across the United States. After Season’s 52, he joined Maggiano’s Restaurant where he felt at home with their chef-driven, scratch kitchen. Now he is planning of retiring in the sunny-coastal city of Sorrento, Italy.


Born and raised in Irvine, Calif., Chef Katy Smith uncovered her love for the food industry while working in restaurants during college. Deciding to forge her passion into a career, Smith earned her advanced culinary arts degree from Baltimore International College while working as a cook at Michael Mina’s Wit & Wisdom at the Baltimore Four Seasons Hotel.

A jack of all kitchen trades, Smith has held a wide range of jobs within the culinary industry including time in a 5-star hotel kitchen and owning and operating a personal chef business. Most recently, Smith served as the test kitchen director and culinary assistant to culinary legend Rick Bayless in Chicago.

While in Chicago, Smith received national recognition as the culinary director for the James Beard winning podcast The Feed and served as kitchen director for Bayless’ Emmy-nominated, Season 10 of PBS Mexico’s One Plate at a Time. Smith also oversaw recipe testing and developing for Bayless’ most recent cookbook, More Mexican Everyday.

Smith brought her talents back to Southern California in Summer 2016 as Puesto’s Executive Creative Chef. At Puesto, Smith is constantly experimenting with new ingredients and testing recipes to give a fresh and innovative spin to authentic Mexican cuisine.

Michael's on Naples

While he’s quick to tell you his first restaurant stint was at age 15 working as a buffet attendant at his local Hometown Buffet, this humble chef got his real start with the late Charlie Trotter in Chicago. From the Windy City to the City of Angels, Chef Samaniego spent seven years with David Myers working at the restaurateur-chef’s high profile Los Angeles dining destinations – first at Sona and the next five years at Comme Ça.
He then went on to make a name for himself as the Executive Chef of Little Sparrow in downtown Santa Ana where the restaurant earned such accolades as Best New Restaurant by the Orange County Register as well as Restaurant of the Year by Orange Coast Magazine.
Last April, Chef Samaniego went from the OC to the LBC as Chef de Cuisine for Michael’s On Naples.

“This is the first time I’ve commanded a menu of Italian fare,” said Samaniego. “While I’ve kept many of Michael’s go-to dishes, such as the signature lasagna and savory squash blossoms, I’ve also been given liberty to create and experiment. I would have to say my current culinary style is regional Italian with California influences.”

Born in Orange, California, and raised in the state’s Central Valley, Chef Samaniego is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Denver where he studied Culinary Arts and Food Service Management. While there’s no doubt he’s a natural in the kitchen, he also proved to be equally comfortable in front of a camera when he appeared on Bravo’s “The Best Restaurant” a few years back.

Married with three children and a resident of Whittier, California, Chef Samaniego spends his spare time immersed in food be it experimenting in the kitchen, studying the latest cooking techniques, reading about other chefs or simply eating out. While there’s no 12-step recovery program available, Chef Samaniego admits he has an unhealthy obsession with Old Bay seasoning keeping at least four full containers safely guarded in his kitchen cupboard at all times.

The Resort at Pelican Hill

Jean-Pierre Dubray’s passion for food and cooking was home grown. He grew up in the kitchen of his family’s country house in France’s Loire Valley, where they produced much of their own food. He enjoyed helping his mother prepare big family meals and by the time he was 15, when he enrolled in culinary school, he had decided it would be his life’s work.

Dubray came to the United States in 1980 when he had an opportunity to be part of the opening team for La Vie en Rose restaurant in Brea, Calif. –and he has been in the Golden State ever since. In 1984, Dubray joined The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company becoming the first dining room chef of the then newly opened The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. In 1987, he opened The Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage in the Palm Springs area, and over the years was sent on 14 overseas assignments as a team trainer for the openings of Ritz-Carlton hotels around the world. It was in1991, however, when the opportunity came –to open The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco as executive chef–that would accelerate his career to the highest level. Demonstrating exceptional skills and creativity, he helped make The Dining Room one of the country’s culinary stars and a recipient of countless honors, including the AAA Five Diamond rating and one of only two restaurants in California and 17 in all of North America with Exxon/Mobil’s Five-Star designation.

He reached the pinnacle of accomplishment and recognition at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco –establishing the credentials to take the culinary reins of The Resort at Pelican Hill®, where he oversees Andrea Ristorante, the Coliseum Pool &Grill, Pelican Grill at Pelican Hill Golf Club®, the Resort’s pastry and bakery operations, in-room dining to 128 Villas and 204 Bungalows, and catering and special event services, both on-site and off-premise. Chef Dubray has been a guest chef for a James Beard Foundation event in San Francisco and for numerous charitable events for such organizations as the March of Dimes and Meals On Wheels. He has participated in many promotional events with celebrity chefs such as Paul Bocuse, Alain Ducasse and Julia Child. Among the numerous awards he has received, the Marin County Branch of the International Wine and Food Society named him “Outstanding Chef of the Year” in 2002, and later the same year the French Minister of Agriculture awarded him the prestigious “Le Merite Agricole.”

Andrea Ristorante Head Chef

Growing up on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, Chef Troy Mendoza rose early in the morning to
accompany his grandmother to the local market for produce, seafood and other ingredients. He
carried her bags home and assisted in the kitchen, preparing meals for his large family, including
three older brothers. Their smiling faces and genuine pleasure in his culinary creations sparked
Chef Troy’s passion for cooking and his career ambitions to become a professional chef.
After studying culinary arts in college, Chef Troy started his career focusing on Hawaiian regional
cuisine at the flagship restaurant Roy’s Hawaii Kai and then at Alan Wong’s Honolulu. A few
years later, he relocated to Southern California with just a backpack and surfboard in tow. As sous
chef of Scarpetta at the Montage Beverly Hills luxury hotel, Chef Troy mastered the art of
handmade pasta and unleashed a new passion for the delectable simplicity of Italian cuisine.
In 2016, Chef Troy joined The Resort at Pelican Hill as sous chef for Andrea Ristorante. Now at
the helm of the Resort’s signature Italian restaurant, he leads a dedicated team of culinary
professionals in presenting traditional Italian favorites featuring the finest local, seasonal
ingredients. True to his island roots, seafood crudo – or “Italian poke” according to Chef Troy –
is among his favorite dishes to prepare.

Oak Grill & Aqua Lounge

Chef Peter Lai oversees the seasonally changing menu development for breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch at Oak Grill, boasting one of the largest patios for alfresco dining in Newport Beach for all-day dining and socializing. In addition, he is in charge of creating the popular shareable bites featured at chic Aqua Lounge – also known for its handcrafted cocktails, vibrant entertainment and after-work and late night vibe. Responsible for all culinary operations, Lai will work in tandem with Oak Grill and Aqua Lounge General Manager Kevin Morales, a successful relationship they have enjoyed together in the past.

Lai describes his cuisine as simple modern American. He is devoted to purveying the finest ingredients and handling them with respect to prepare simply delicious dishes. He will continue and expand on Oak Grill’s tradition of using locally sourced products. A proponent of sustainable trends such as root-to-stalk vegetable cooking, he especially enjoys featuring seafood dishes on his menus. Continuing Oak Grill’s popular special wine, beer and spirits dinners and participating in offsite culinary events for Oak Grill and Island Hotel are on his list of future professional activities.

Lai got his start at an early age in his family’s traditional Chinese restaurant and graduated summa cum laude from Texas Culinary Academy. For the last nine years, he has worked with Hyatt Hotels in New Mexico, Texas and California. Most recently, he was chef de cuisine at Watertable, the signature restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach, Calif., where he supervised 15 chefs and cooks.

Oak Grill and Aqua Lounge are located across the street from Fashion Island inside Island Hotel Newport Beach and are easily accessible through a pedestrian entrance along Newport Center Drive, along with complimentary valet available at the hotel entrance. Oak Grill and Aqua Lounge are located at 690 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660. Reservations for Oak Grill can be made by calling 949-760-4920 or, and for Aqua Lounge by calling 949-760-4342 or visiting

Pelican Grill

Chef Marc Johnson believes that we eat with our eyes first, then with the rest of our senses. His thoughtfully presented California cuisine involves simple, flavorful and balanced dishes made with the season’s highest quality ingredients.

Before he became a professional chef, the native Angeleno was drawn to making food that tastes just as good as it looks. As a child, Chef Marc independently created after- school meals in his mother’s kitchen and perfected his first dish, shepherd’s pie, during a fourth grade cooking class. In high school, he enrolled in culinary arts every semester and consistently aced the class.

After graduating from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, Marc pursued his culinary passion in restaurants and hotels throughout Southern California, from La Jolla to Beverly Hills. He honed his charcuterie-making skills at Waterloo & City in Culver City and now makes his own charcuterie at home as a hobby. Chef Marc headed up kitchens at Haven Gastropub in Pasadena and Wood & Vine in Hollywood before joining Pelican Hill Golf Club’s signature restaurant, Pelican Grill, in late 2016.

Yard House

When Yard House opened in 1996 in Long Beach, California, it revolutionized the restaurant industry by creating a 250-tap draft beer system. Its lofty design, warm wood accents, and industrial vibe with the use of steel and chrome, made it a dining destination from the start. Nearly 21 years and 68 restaurants later – including four restaurants in Orange County (The Triangle, Irvine Spectrum, Downtown Brea and Fashion Island) – Yard House still leads the way with great food, classic rock and a vast selection of draft beer while evolving into an award-winning dining destination known for its menu of American favorites, crafted cocktails and endless fleet of tap handles featuring the best American craft and import beers. Executive Chef Carlito Jocson, an Orange County native himself, has been at the helm of Yard House, creating the restaurant’s signature fare that reads like a coast-to-coast road trip with more than 100 items made from scratch daily. Celebrating 10 years this September, Yard House at Fashion Island features 100 taps of beer, including several local and regional brews, that pair perfectly with the selection of grilled burgers, gourmet salads, street tacos, steaks, seafood and house favorites. Yard House is open daily at 11am for lunch, dinner and late-night dining.

Chef Donald Lockhart began his culinary career at a young age, as generations of his family before him. After completing his culinary training, Donald worked at the Four Seasons Hotel Newport Beach where he studied under Chef Michel Pieton. While pursuing his goals, Donald had the exciting opportunities of working with Julia Child, cooking at the James Beard House in New York and working with the Robert Mondavi winery. He then became the Chef de Cuisine for Pascal’s and Café Jardin located in Corona del Mar and later moved on to the position of Executive Sous Chef at the Fairmont Hotel Newport Beach. In 2009, Donald joined the culinary team at Michele Richard’s Citronelle located in Carmel Valley. Later, Donald became the Executive Sous Chef at the exciting W Hotel and Delphine restaurant in Hollywood. Most recently, Donald was the Executive Chef at Hotel La Jolla and Cusp restaurant where he helped the staff exceed the well-known and superior standards of the Kimpton hotel brand. He has competed in many regional, national and international competitions, receiving honors in each of them, including the Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany where he received the silver medal. Today, Donald proudly lends his expertise to the outstanding culinary team at Monarch Beach Resort as the Chef de Cuisine at AVEO Table + Bar.

Andrew Gruel, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University, is currently the CEO and Founder of Slapfish Restaurant Group, the award-winning food truck turned international brick and mortar, based out of Huntington Beach, CA and Founder of Butterleaf Restaurant and Two Birds Chicken (two concepts in Irvine, CA).

Andrew has appeared on multiple television series including his most recent role as a judge on Food Network’s “Chopped Junior.” He was recently the Host of FYI Series “Say It To My Face”, as well as a judge on Food Network’s“Food Truck Face Off.”He has made appearanceson the TODAY show,PBS, Cooking Channel, and has beenfeatured in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Men’s Health, Food & Wine magazine, USA Today, Entrepreneur and Nation’s Restaurant News. In 2016 and 2017, he was named Top 25 Business Executives for Fast Casual magazine as well as featured in Nation’s Restaurant News’ 2017 Power List. In 2013 he was named top 40 under 40 entrepreneurs in Orange County. He is currently the Co-Host of The SoCal Restaurant Show on AM 830.

In 2009, After 10 years working in fine dining and upscale hotels, Gruel’s love of the ocean drove him to direct a non-profit project at The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA called “Seafood for the Future”. In this role, he worked with hundreds of chefs, fisherman and like-minded organizations establishing a national culinary awareness for the sustainable seafood movement. This was the foundation of Slapfish, which currently has eight locations open and over 100 in development both domestically and internationally. In 2017 he opened two new concepts: Butterleaf – vegetarian foods for non-vegetarians – and Two Birds – a fast casual concept using farm-fresh, free-range Jidori chicken.

At the age of 14 Andy started washing dishes at a restaurant near his house in Ramona California. After a few months Andy started to help with the prep work in the kitchen. Quickly became his first kitchen role as Prep cook, His mother always cooked and he helped , the family rarely ate out only on special occasions, so he understood a lot of preparing items in the kitchen. Soon after that I was hooked into the kitchen Family and wanted to make it my career.

While attending the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, Chef Andy Arndt had the opportunity to work at one of San Francisco’s best restaurants, Boulevard, with Chef Nancy Oakes, whose mentorship would shape his career. Oakes taught him the importance of focusing on the seasonal ingredients abundant in the Bay area. In 1998, Arndt chose to broaden his culinary horizons and accepted a position at San Francisco’s award-winning Mc2 with Chef Yoshi Kojima. He spent the following two years helping Kojima develop and execute his French-Californian cuisine inflected with subtle Japanese elements.

Eager to expand his repertoire, Arndt left the West Coast for New York City, where he embarked on a series of stages with the city’s leading chefs. His first stop was at Union Pacific where he worked with Chef Rocco Dispirito. The next stop was at March with Chef Wayne Nish. Soon after, Arndt was lured to Gramercy Tavern by Chef Tom Colicchio. There, Arndt spent the next year absorbing Colicchio’s culinary vision and expanding his knowledge of East Coast ingredients. Arndt was then hired as chef de cuisine at Halcyon Restaurant at the Rihga Royal Hotel. While at Halcyon, he managed a kitchen staff of 40. Under his tenure, Halcyon received some of its best critical reviews since its opening. Arndt leapt on the opportunity to stage under iconic chef Thomas Keller at The French Laundry.

At Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, where Arndt was executive chef for four years, he was responsible for the food program at all restaurants and banquets with a large focus on seasonality and farm-to-table mentality. During his tenure, the resort acquired a Five Diamond AAA Rating.

Today he lives in Laguna Niguel. And while he took his lessons in seasonal cooking under Oakes to heart, his own -friendly brand of inventive cuisine is all his own. From comfort-driven dishes like short ribs, to wildly inventive fare like gin and tonic Gelee-topped salmon, Arndt’s inventiveness is obvious and continues to astound.
Being back in southern California has been great it feels like coming home , utilizing the local community, farmers etc. and showing our international hotel guests what southern California has to offer

As The executive Chef at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa Chef Arndt overseas the restaurant , banquets and in room dining.
Andy is married and has 2 children, Daughter Sabine 12 & Son Milo 9,
Favorite Wine – Jayson Cabernet
Hobbies – Surfing, Skateboarding, Assist coaching his son’s Basketball
Food – Authentic Fried Chicken & Bbq Ribs

Executive Chef

Since childhood Asian Box’s Executive Chef Grace Nguyen’s interest in food and cooking dictated her path in life. With the opening of Asian Box came an opportunity to bring together both her personal background and professional experiences by combining her fine dining training with her family’s Vietnamese heritage.

Raised in Houston, Texas, Nguyen was introduced to cooking at an early age. Her mother was constantly making cakes, pastries, and cream puffs at home for the entire family. While watching her mother bake really piqued her interest in cooking, it was her Vietnamese grandmother whom she credits to introducing her to traditional Asian fare.

In 2011, Nguyen was approached by Asian Box CEO Frank Klein to spearhead the kitchen and menu development for his latest concept. For Nguyen, it was a natural fit. “Asian Box brings together two things I love – the Asian style of cooking and working with fresh ingredients. The best foods use simple preparation, top ingredients and have a sense of authenticity. Creating a menu on these three philosophies, not to mention the completely gluten free nature of the concept, has really inspired me in the kitchen and pushed me to a new level of creativity.”

Prior to her time at Asian Box, Nguyen enrolled in the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco to build upon her training. She then worked as a line cook at Postrio in San Francisco’s Union Square and later as sous chef for its Las Vegas location before accepting the role of sous chef at acclaimed Chef Charles Phan’s modern Vietnamese restaurant, Slanted Door. After a few years working with Phan, Nguyen was offered the position of chef de cuisine at his casual offshoot of Slanted Door, Out the Door, in the city’s Pacific Heights neighborhood. There, she created a playful menu with specials that celebrated her heritage. These dishes became instant favorites and she soon started developing a following around San Francisco.

Nguyen now lives in Menlo Park, California with her husband Chad Newton, a professional chef and culinary director atAsian Box. In addition to thriving in the culinary world, Nguyen’s hobbies include running and baking gluten-free goods for friends and family.


Justin Castillo is an experienced culinary professional, currently serving as the Chef of Roy’s Newport Beach.  Justin received an Advanced Culinary Certificate from OCC and worked at numerous fine dining and high volume restaurants such as The Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney and The Playground in downtown Santa Ana.  Justin has spent the last several years working at various Roy’s Restaurants in both Hawaii and also in California as line cook, Sous Chef, and eventually promoted into the current position of Chef of Roy’s Newport.  Justin has a passion for Roy’s fine dining cuisine and enjoys sharing the spirit of Ohana among the guests and friends he has made.

Alexander's Steakhouse

Chef Jessie Lugo was born and raised in El Paso and Arlington, Texas in a family filled with restaurant folks. Her first job, at age 16, was as a dishwasher at her grandmother and uncle’s restaurant. Dish washing quickly led to greater responsibility in the kitchen when she began training as a prep cook. Chef Lugo met an influential mentor, Chef Dan Landsburg, then executive chef of Tillman’s Roadhouse in Dallas, Texas. With his support and encouragement, Jessie took a leap of faith and enrolled in culinary school in San Francisco. At age 20, Chef Lugo earned an Associates Degree in Culinary Arts & Management from Le Cordon Bleu, CA Culinary Academy in SF and began to immerse herself in the Northern CA food culture. Suzette Gresham, chef / owner of Michelin Starred Acquerello in SF made a significant impact on Chef Lugo’s burgeoning career. “From her, I learned how to push myself, and eventually others, to strive for perfection in my craft.” A staging opportunity at Alexander’s Steakhouse SF drew her to the potential of whimsy in the creation of technical, luxury- ingredient based food that she truly embraced. She discovered that fine dining could be fun, creative and, above all, delicious. Chef Lugo has been promoted to executive chef of Alexander’s Steakhouse Pasadena and is looking forward to wowing this SoCal town of sophisticated foodies with a voracious appetite for world-class dining and constant surprises.


The Daytime Festival on Saturday and Sunday will commence with the ultimate experience for wine lovers of all levels. World-renowned master sommeliers will be hosting educational wine panels and tastings.

Master Sommelier

Reggie Narito is one of only 230 people in the world and one of only 3
Filipino Americans to hold the prestigious title of Master Sommelier. A
native of Alameda, California, Reggie began his career in the restaurant
industry at the age of 17 and has worked in noted California restaurants such
as Star’s, San Francisco, Le Papillion, San Jose and the Plumed Horse,
Saratoga. He has consulted in the design of numerous beverage programs
throughout California. He is currently employed with the Estates Group, the
Fine Wine division for Young’s Market Company, working as the VP of
Fine Wine in California. He also appears in the movie “Somm” and the
recently released cable TV series “Uncorked”. He resides in San Jose with
his wife Kim and their 3 children.

Master Sommelier

Veteran Restaurateur and “Sommelier for the People” Michael Jordan is Director of Global Key Accounts for Jackson Family Fine Wines. Previously Jordan served three years as vice president of food & beverage for Anaheim’s award winning restaurant and live music venue, THE RANCH Restaurant & Saloon (Zagat 28-29-28). Prior to opening THE RANCH, Jordan was president of The Beachcomber Restaurant Group. Before that he served as Global Manager of wine sales & standards and wine education for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts® Worldwide – and also nine years as general manager of the world famous Napa Rose restaurant at Disneyland Resort® in Anaheim. In his career Jordan has been involved with the opening of seventeen restaurants including Pinot Provence in Costa Mesa and was general manager/sommelier of Pavilion at Four Seasons Hotel Newport Beach when it received AAA’s Five Diamond Award.

Jordan holds a Master Sommelier diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers as well as a Certified Wine Educator diploma from the Society of Wine Educators and is one of only 15 people in the world to hold both these diplomas. Jordan has taught comprehensive wine and beverage courses to well over a thousand students.
Jordan also hosts a weekly radio show, What’s Cookin’ with Wine on CRN Digital Talk Radio and many AM radio markets across the country since 2002.
Personal recognition & awards:

  • 2012 Food & Beverage Director of the Year – Southern California Restaurant Writers
  • 2008 Sommelier of the Year – Whitefish Wine & Food Summit
  • 2008 General Manager of the Year – Southern California Restaurant Writers
  • 2006 Restaurant Professional of the Year – Orange Coast Magazine
  • 2005 American Sommelier of the Year – Cordon Du Vin World Society
  • 2005 Wine Educator of the Year – STARWINE
  • 2005 General Manager of the Year – Orange Coast Magazine
  • 2002 Sommelier of the Year – Southern California Restaurant Writers
  • 2001 Sommelier of the Year – California Restaurant Writers Assn.

“Michael Jordan is one of just 15 people in the world awarded both Master Sommelier and CWE (Certified Wine Educator) Diplomas. And if there were an equivalent for heirloom tomato expertise, he’d have that, too.”
-Priscilla Mayfield’s column “Taste of Orange County” Orange Coast Magazine – August, 2013

Master Sommelier

Peter Neptune is one of only 230 individuals in the World to hold the wine industry’s most prestigious title: Master Sommelier. He is a 31-year veteran of the wine business, beginning as a sommelier in New York City, where he trained and worked for 10 years. Upon returning to his native California, Peter entered into Wine Education full time, and has established a nationwide reputation as one of the premier wine educators in the USA. In addition to his MS Diploma, Peter holds the title of Certified Wine Educator with the Society of Wine Educators (for which he was recognized with the Banfi Award for Excellence in 2003), holds a Diploma in Wine and Spirits from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust in London, and is an Associate of the Institute of Wines and Spirits. He also holds the credential French Wine Scholar, with Highest Honors. Peter is one of the teaching Masters at the Court of Master Sommelier Intro and Advanced Courses, and is an examiner at the Certified, Advanced, and Master Sommelier Examinations. In 2003 Peter began the first WSET school in Southern California. Currently, Neptune School of Wine administers the WSET Level 2 Intermediate, Level 3 Advanced, and Level 4 Diploma Certification programs, as well as the French Wine Scholar program and exam. To date we have taught over 500 students at the various levels.

Master Sommelier

Nick Hetzel began his more than 20 year career in the hotel and restaurant industry in the back of the house, cooking for numerous James Beard award winning chefs. It was his passion for
food that lead to his intrigue in wine and its role in the dining experience. This thirst for wine knowledge eventually leads him to a 15 year sommelier career. During this time, he worked in
top restaurants in Las Vegas and the Napa Valley with Sage Restaurant accounting for the last seven. While at Sage, Hetzel achieved numerous awards including Best Sommelier, Las Vegas in
2012 and 2013, as well as Top 100 Wine Restaurant in the nation by Wine Enthusiast magazine six years in a row.

In the summer of 2013, Hetzel earned the most prestigious title a sommelier can achieve by passing the Master Sommelier Diploma exam. In addition to his Master Sommelier diploma, he
is also a graduate of the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

Nick Hetzel joined Jackson Family Wines in August 2017 as the Director of Wine Education.

Master Sommelier

Thomas Price has been in the Hospitality Industry for his entire adult life. Thomas was born in Pasadena, California in 1965. His family moved to Alaska when he was 7. Thomas’ first restaurant job was as a Dishwasher at a diner in Juneau at the age of 14. By 18, Thomas was the day Lead Cook at an upscale burger house called Harry’s in Anchorage. Thomas moved into the front of the house as a Server and Bartender upon turning 21. His passion for wine was instantaneous. Thomas moved to Seattle in 1988, where he met his lovely wife, Jessica. Jessica shares Thomas’ passion for food and wine, and they both worked at some of Seattle’s most notable restaurants of the era, (Dahlia Lounge, El Camino, Etta’s Seafood, The Santa Fe Café).

Thomas began as a waiter at Seattle’s Metropolitan Grill, and obtained his Basic Sommelier certification in September of 2004. In 2005, Thomas was promoted to a Sommelier/Captain position and in 2006 he obtained his Certified Sommelier certification. In September of 2007, Thomas passed his Advanced Sommelier certification on the first try.

In June of 2008 Thomas was named Head Sommelier at The Metropolitan Grill. Thomas obtained his Master Sommelier certification in May 2012.

Thomas is now the National Wine Educator for Jackson Family Wines and is dedicated to sharing his passion for wine with friends, consumers and the trade, one bottle at a time.

Master Sommelier

Steven has worked in the Food and Beverage industry for nearly twenty years – from washing dishes at a mom and pop Italian restaurant in his hometown of Diamond Bar, to managing a Bar and Grill in Golden, Colorado. His love of food and wine, however, was born in a fine dining restaurant at the Disneyland Resort called the Napa Rose, a world class Dining Room specializing in Wine Country Cuisine, with a Wine Program that set new standards for excellence in the culinary world. The relationship between Disney and the Court of Master Sommeliers put Steven on a path that would forever change and enrich his life.

After many years of study, and with the help of many great mentors, Steven advanced through the Court of Master Sommeliers and attained the Master Sommelier Diploma in February of 2008 and has since been an active participant with the Court as a wine educator.

Steven currently works as the Beverage Director at Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach. Since his arrival, the Wine Program at Big Canyon has been recognized among Country Clubs as one of the finest in the nation.

Certified Sommelier
Certified Sommelier


Anne Koziara has served as Vice President of On-Premise Sales for Crystal of America, the North American subsidiary of Riedel, the Kufstein, Austria-based fine crystal house, since 2013. Charged with developing relationships with restaurants, bars, hotels, casinos and cruise lines through the current Wine Distributor network, Koziara oversees a team of 10 regional managers throughout the United States and Canada. A Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2005, Koziara has over 17 years of experience in beverage distribution and hospitality.

With on-premise distribution driving sales opportunities for Riedel, Koziara was recruited specifically to expand growth through trade channels. In her oversight of on-premise accounts, Koziara has achieved continued growth through a focus on the Riedel Restaurant and Restaurant Sommeliers lines developed specifically for the hospitality industry. Working closely with Riedel distributors including Southern-Glazers Wines & Spirits, she oversees ongoing expansion of on-premise distribution agreements in the US and Canadian sales markets. As a sales executive, Koziara also conducts comparative glassware tastings for trade and consumer audiences of up to 500.

Charged with management and development of trade partnerships, Koziara has grown Riedel’s role as exclusive glassware purveyor to The James Beard House, while forging a strategic alliance with the Michelin Guide. In 2015, under her management, Riedel became the first brand granted access to Michelin’s network of starred restaurants for integration into its own proprietary app, the Wine Glass Guide. With Treasury Wine Estates, Koziara has developed a successful exchange program, securing wines for Riedel’s world famous comparative glassware tastings, and securing Riedel glassware for key TWE trade partners. Finally, Koziara has promoted steady and diversified growth of on-premise glassware placements at major cruise lines, strengthening a sales and events relationship with Celebrity/Royal Caribbean, and developing new opportunities with Norwegian, Princess, Royal Holland and Disney Cruise lines.

Koziara has played a role in new product innovation, identifying on-premise opportunities particularly in the cocktail and barware categories. In this capacity, she works with hospitality accounts to identify glassware needs for mixology and cocktail programs, and has successfully developed new Riedel SKUs to meet both unique and universal market demands.

Prior to joining Riedel, Koziara spent nearly 13 years in on-premise fine wine sales and management for Republic National Distributing Company, the second largest national wholesaler of wines & spirits in the US. Involved at all levels within the distributor, she rose to the position of Brand Manager of Riedel as well as On-Premise Area Manager and Marketing Manager for over 50 wine suppliers including Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Winebow, Maisons, Marques & Domaines, Dreyfus Ashby, Kobrand, Frederick Wildman, Majestic Fine Wines and Foley Fine Wines.

Koziara is a graduate of the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and has studied at the University of South Dakota, L’Universite d”Orleans in France, and Slagelse Gymnasium in Denmark.


Smooth, soulful sounds will fill the air as world-renowned jazz musicians perform live during the Daytime Festival. Centered between the two Grand Tasting Pavilions, the Festival’s Jazz Lounge will allow guests to get lost in the music while they taste and sip the day away.

With the release of their highly-anticipated Woodward Avenue Records debut, Southern California’s premiere R&B, funk and contemporary urban jazz powerhouse DW3 lets the world in on a cool “Vintage Truth.” Driven by the ever-evolving musical vision of core members – brothers Eric and Billy Mondragon and Damon Reel – their deepening artistry continues to transcend a well-earned reputation as a high energy, fun and freewheeling party band. While they continue to anchor Thursday nights and the 94.7 The Wave Sunday Brunch at Spaghettini in Seal Beach and electrify festival and cruise-goers as they have for more than a decade, the versatile ensemble is rapidlyemerging as a multi-faceted recording outfit in their own right.

Building on the success of their 2011 single, “I Got You” featuring Gerald Albright, which hit #16 on the Billboard charts, and the “On The Floor” album that went #1 on
8 the UK soul charts, DW3 – now expanded to nine pieces with the addition of a horn section – captures all the dynamics of their live show on the twelve tracks on “Vintage Truth.” The set features exciting original vocal tracks along with freshly re-imagined covers of classics like The Eagles’ “I Can’t Tell You Why,” Luther Vandross’ “So Amazing” and Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed.” It also includes DW3’s soulful take on The Mamas & the Papas gem “California Dreaming’,” which won the California Lottery Powerball song contest and spawned a popular YouTube video. Eric, Billy and Damon all contribute lead and harmony vocals, while Eric plays keys (including synth horns and strings) and Billy adds percussion.

Reflective of the band’s incredible popularity among the urban jazz community’s fans, core artists and musicians,”Vintage Truth” features contributions from a handful of the genre’s superstar performers. Brian Culbertson plays piano on the opening track, the rousing, vocal harmony laden R&B tune ͞”Let The Music.” Paul Brown produced, mixed and contributes his inimitable guitar to “I Can’t Tell You Why,” while Greg Adams lends trumpet and horns to Eric’s original tune “Hold Me” and Dave Koz infuses his lush sax emotion on “When You Cry.” Before he passed away, legendary GRAMMY®- winning drummer Ricky Lawson, who performed with DW3 in the final two years of his life, co-produced four of the core tracks on “Vintage Truth” with keyboardist Sean Dancy – including “Dance With Me,” “Overjoyed,” “California Dreaming” and “When You Cry.” In fact, the band dedicates “Vintage Truth” to “Our Big Brother, the Drummer to the Stars, Mr. Ricky Lawson.”

“We titled the album ‘Vintage Truth͛ because of the way we approached the recording process, like a live jam session where the core musicians – the guitarist, bassist, keyboardist and drummer – were in the room playing at the same time,” says Eric. “We rehearsed each song twice, then got in the studio and pressed play. Our previous recordings featured a lot of drum programming, but this project has all live drums. When you’re working with a legend like Ricky, how can you have it otherwise? Another vintage element we added that we absolutely love is the live horns – so much so that we recently added a horn section to our lineup so that we could perform these songs properly onstage.”

Hailing from La Puente, California and growing up in the Los Angeles areas of El Sereno and Lincoln Heights, Eric and Billy began their musical careers in high school by playing club dates with their parents; their father is a bass player, and he and their mom are singers. DW3, an outgrowth of that original family band, which took the Mondragon’s sound and professionalism to the next level, has been an evolving collective of musicians since then – but the core (Down With 3) members since 2003 are Eric, Billy and Damon. They became an integral part of the contemporary urban jazz scene in 2004 when they played on the first Warren Hill Smooth Jazz Cruise and were subsequently booked asresident performers at Spaghettini.

Since the mid-2000s, in addition to their weekly shows at the popular Seal Beach jazz venue, DW3 has built a massive following via their appearances on numerous theme cruises, including The Smooth Jazz Cruise and the Dave Koz Cruise, and captivating performances at the Sea Breeze Jazz Festival, Newport Beach Jazz Festival, Long Beach Jazz Festival, Thornton Winery Champagne Jazz Series, Las Vegas Jazz Festival, San Diego Jazz Festival, JazzFest West, Taste of Soul Festival and many other nightclubs and festivals bookings. In 2015, they will be making their second appearance at Culbertson’s Napa Valley Jazz Getaway, a five-day wine and jazz festival taking place in the heart of Northern California’s wine country. DW3 will also be performing at the inaugural Cancun Jazz Festival over Labor Day Weekend. While recording several independent albums, including “Live At Spaghettini” and “Life, Love and Music,” DW3 has expanded their artistic horizons performing with and singing background for numerous jazz and R&B legends and popular contemporary artists including Sheila E., Marcus Miller, Brenda Russell, Patti Austin, Bobby Caldwell, Mindi Abair, Jonathan Butler, Jody Watley, Brian McKnight, David Pack, Evelyn “Champagne” King and the late George Duke. “We’re really excited to share ‘Vintage Truth’ with of our wonderful and loyal longtime fans and new listeners, and believe this is the start of a new phase in our career as recording artists,” says Eric.”Our musicianship both live and in the studio has evolved in amazing ways over the last ten years and we͛re so thrilled now to have the horn section joining us. The process of recording this album has helped us ‘up’ our game to create shows that are better, more explosive and feature more original songs in the old school funk/R&B and urban jazz vein than ever before.”